Agreed, We Need a Different Model

A Truly Socialist One, Not Disguised Capitalism

Pedro Campos

Havana Summer 2010

HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 11 — In an interview granted to the US magazine The Atlantic, Fidel Castro was quoted as saying “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”

At no moment did he speak of socialism, but of the “model.”  The interpretation of this by an academic taking part in the conversation was that Fidel was referring to the high degree of State involvement in the economy.

This factor precisely characterizes “State socialism” or “real socialism,” which has failed everywhere as it maintains a concentration of ownership (but in the hands of the State) and the wage-labor form of production – a model that Lenin himself termed “state monopoly capitalism.”

This is a continuation, in a new phase, of the ideas Fidel expressed in November 2005 at the University of Havana when he spoke of the reversible character of the Revolution.

He asserted that this would be as a consequence of the actions of revolutionaries ourselves if we were unable to solve the serious existing problems of corruption and bureaucracy, which —as has been demonstrated— are in fact engendered by this statist “model” containing neo-Stalinist components.

Fidel didn’t go as far as openly defining what the new model would be for him.  Perhaps we will receive something that was lacking in his interview with the American magazine; but what have not been lacking are the opinions of communists and revolutionaries.

The debate is sometimes sharp, at moments tense, closed; nor is it between individuals under the same conditions.  Many revolutionaries and communists debate from the inside, which involves precariousness, patience and tolerance.  They risk misunderstanding while subject to crude accusations and manipulation.  All of this could have somehow contributed to Fidel reaching that conclusion.

Impending change, in one direction or another

Objectively we live in a country with a specific history.  And although its own development of economic and social relations has led many people to that same conclusion, as have their own life experiences, some have come to believe that the solution lies in private capitalism.

Havana Summer 2010

Nonetheless, others see the answer as depending on real change to the centralized State mechanisms for a true, more participative, democratic and inclusive model of socialism, and one with several forms of the organization of production.

This would be one in which the cooperative/self-management system of freely associated workers would gradually be implanted.  In this, the State would still be necessary but it would be small and concentrated in some key areas.  What is true in Cuba is that this historic leadership, which some would prefer to ignore, is the one that under our conditions today, right now, can give way to change in one direction or another.

This doesn’t deny that revolution and change are produced and truly come from below.  Some of us have been struggling for those ideas from below for decades in Cuba and, because of this, suffering more or less open repression.

Acting from below, workers have imposed a distribution of their earnings that is different from that sought by the bureaucratic State (and I’m not speaking of individuals).  They are forcing the adoption of a new model.

Acting from below, diverse political actors, politicians, including the minority opposition (assisted and financed from abroad) have imposed their presence, as have homosexuals.  Blacks and mestizos have also been struggling against persisting discrimination; while women, discriminated against within the supposed “equality of sexes,” have acted to defend their rights.

Likewise, those in support of non-violence in human relations of all types even held a public march along the central thoroughfare of 23rd Avenue in the Vedado district.  Environmentalists have created blogs and come up with public information activities; intellectuals have set up Internet and [domestic] Intranet forums, in addition to taking advantage of the few existing settings for debate to express their positions.

Rappers and many other people’s artists have cut against the grain of official institutions and restrictions and have called things by their popular names and made the ears of the bureaucrats and others burn.  All of this is to mention only some of the clearest demonstrations of actions from below, from that seething, people’s and democratic revolution that is not decreed from any office.

Critical support of the government’s actions

However —despite their sectarianism, despite their inability to accept anything that doesn’t come from their own discourse, despite the time they’ve caused us to waste, about their indecision, about their indisposition to dialogue even with revolutionaries, despite their resistance to convene a Party congress— the current leadership is moving towards bringing about necessary socializing and democratic changes in the economic and political arenas.  They cannot only count on our non-sectarian acceptance, but also our wider cooperation.

Havana Summer 2010

Our forces and I ask for all Cubans of good faith, be they within or outside the country, to support these necessary changes in the search of the Cuba of Jose Marti: “With all and for the wellbeing of all.”  We have been criticized for our critical cooperation; perhaps history will recognize that it was a correct tactic.

But no one believes that in the name of another model they will be able to maintain the old bureaucratic, autocratic and centralized State of the past and at the same time carry out superficial economic reforms that only serve to consolidate the power of a few.  Reality requires change: we will move towards socialism or barbarism.

To advance to a new form of socialism —not to mention communism, which would demand other international changes having broad popular support— there will have to be very established limits on State companies.  This movement to socialism must give freedom to self-employed labor and to cooperatives (or co-managed companies) that could begin to structure small-scale services and industry from within State-owned properties.

It must give real capacity to workers to decide on the administration and distribution of profits, to determine their relation to the surrounding community and to have the opportunity of obtaining credit and freely selling their products domestically or exporting them, without abusive controls by the State.

It will be necessary to make a new law for cooperatives, one that recognizes the principles of this system without paternalism or State control in agriculture and which extends to services and industry.  It will be necessary to allow for associations of cooperatives.  It will be necessary to clearly define the difference between cooperatives and State enterprises that are managed by the workers or by the State itself.  It will be necessary to democratically regulate the forms of foreign-owned investment so they’re not able to exploit the labor of our workers directly or have the ability to appropriate our land and natural resources.

Tasks ahead

Cuba, like no other country on the earth, is in a position to take the step to socialism.

Havana Summer 2010

But how can we do this without finally unifying our dual currency, which locks in one of the most brutal forms of exploiting workers by a State that monopolizes property and the market?

None of this will occur if it is not done by workers and all citizens, without listening to and affording participation in concrete actions to those who have been working on these issues from different positions.

Though we will not all agree totally, this will not happen without establishing a truly participative system in the mass media, without democratizing it.  Nor will it take place without clear democratic reforms made in the electoral system and in the ways representatives are designated and selected to Popular Power (representative councils or branches).

Substantive change will not proceed without restructuring the operation of these bodies and without establishing participative municipal, provincial and the national budgets, ones that are democratically approved.  (These are all issues that I have broadly discussed in other articles). Without democracy, socialism is not possible.

If the other “model” that we are looking for is not broadly participative and democratic, anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist (and I’m speaking of a path and not an outline), than what we are talking about is a change that will strengthen capitalism.

This will mean a system based on the search for profit and accumulation through exploiting wage-labor, preying on nature, encouraging more foreign-owned investments, increased control by the bureaucracy, distributing the state piñata between bureaucrats, having a Central Committee full of millionaires and actions of those types.

It would be to turn socialism into a caricature with feet of clay, and to soon see the return of private capitalism, fast tracking the island’s annexation (be it real or de facto) yearned for over such a long time by the most malevolent forces of imperialism and their hatchet men of Cuban ancestry.

But then, sooner rather than later that seething underground revolution will explode, and the story will then be different…but who knows which one it will be.

11 thoughts on “Agreed, We Need a Different Model

  • September 16, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Sam: You grudgingly accept that Marx did stipulate “State Socialism” in the Manifesto, but you still will not call it “State Monopoly Socialism.” Okay, then let’s call it “State Concentration Socialism.” It’s the same thing. It means, literally: “The socialist state should take over ownership of all productive property and run it as the property of the state.”

    No matter how you dress up and put lipstick on this formula, it has proved to destroy the economy and the leading socialist party state power.

    What you continue to avoid is the realization that it is the state concentration hypothesis that has been disproved by actual, historical practice. You continue to lay all the blame on the monster that this hypothesis first created.

    You simply have made a deities out of Marx and Trotsky and there is no getting through to you. History therefore will pass you by.

  • September 14, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Grady-I don’t dispute that Marx says that at all. But Marx was a social instrumentalist, he saw the State as an institution like any other. But he also saw that the State sets the principles upon which society is based and operates, ie property rights, educational standards, legal protections, ect. For a Communist system to be created, State Socialism needed to be implemented.

    My dispute with you isn’t that Marx says this, it’s that Marx planned it on being an interim to coalesce all economic power into this one institution. At that point, the institution fully democratizes (which would be something which might look similar to your co-operative socialism, Marx’s criticisms of Proudhon’s economic theories aside), at which point full Communism is worked towards. Lenin thought that State Socialism would need to last longer in Russia to educate and industrialize the backwards society. Stalin took this idea and made it counter-revolutionary. Trotsky did believe in Lenin’s state monopoly, but he believed critically in increasing the democratic power of the state until it ceases to be “the state”

  • September 14, 2010 at 3:35 am

    Sam: Yes, and this is only your–and your tendency’s–view of things. You sincerely believe this view to be correct, but this does not make it correct.

    I’ve told you and others over and over again, pointing to work, chapter and page number where Marx stipulates in black and white that the socialist usually would and should concentrate all the instruments of production in the hands of the state. Neither you nor any other Trotskyist or other tendency of Marxism has answered me. Not one of you. Not even once.

    Look, if you continue to sidestep the Manifesto text, and continue to pretend that the state monopolization of the instruments of production was only the evil genius of Stalin, then what more can I say. You’ll either deal with the reality that full state monopoly socialism is the heart of Marxism, or you will not.

    I don’t mean to try and dance on your head, but it’s painful to see you and so many others unwilling to recognize and discuss the relevant text of communism’s classic, founding document.

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